Chaim Walder
Chaim WalderDaniel Ratsvi

One of the alleged victims of haredi children's author Chaim Walder took her own life days after Walder's own suicide, haredi journalist Mendy Gruzman reported.

"After a thorough investigation, [it was clear that] the late Shifra Horowitz was harmed by Chaim Walder. This affair has affected many people and had created many painful feelings. After consulting with professionals, it is imperative to publicly and explicitly raise the concern that these days will lead to more suicides and to publish ways to help," Gruzman wrote.

Walder, who faced accusations of sexual assault from nearly two dozen alleged victims, committed suicide on Monday while leaving a note maintaining his innocence.

A close friend of Shifra Horowitz described her story in an interview with the Srugim Hebrew news site. According to the source, who remained anonymous, the 24-year-old's body was found Thursday morning.

"A good friend of hers sent her a message the day Walder committed suicide, and close friends testified that this matter caused her great distress. When the allegations began, details emerged that she was one of Walder's victims," he said. "She always tried to convey confidence and infuse a good atmosphere, to keep other people smiling. She would organize Shabbat gatherings and would do everything to ensure friendly meetings and was willing to do anything to make everyone smile."

He described the search for her after Walder's suicide. "I searched for her for the last day and a half. She did not even tell anyone where she lived. She lived alone and a month and a half ago left the previous apartment she was in, so the police had a very hard time finding her. The fact that she always kept smiling proves how much we need to be aware of the loneliness and distress of the victims."

He derided the support and defenses which have been made for Walder in the wake of his suicide, including prominent rabbis who blamed Walder's accusers for driving him to his death.

"In addition to the media embrace he receives from the haredi public, which strives to be the most moral and humane and yet cruelly stands behind a man who under the auspices of his status has committed the most serious crimes. It is impossible to separate these things - the deeds were done using his status.

"Haredi society is at a point in time where it turns out that it sanctifies its image before it sanctifies life - and Shifra's suicide is a cry that it has all reached a breaking point."

Shifra Horowitz's funeral was held on Thursday afternoon.

Last month, Haaretz published an expose in which women testified that Walder had sexually abused them when they were teens. In response, the popular Eichlers Judaica bookstore in Brooklyn, New York, announced that it would remove all of Walder's books from its shelves, despite the significant financial loss involved.

A special rabbinical court, led by Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, summoned Walder earlier this month to appear for a hearing into the matter. Rabbi Eliyahu revealed that he had heard testimony from additional victims of Walder, separate from the Haaretz report.

Following Walder's suicide, Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, dean of the Ponovezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak and spiritual leader of the United Torah Judaism’s Degel Hatorah faction, was quoted in a letter written to haredi educators Tuesday alleging that Walder was murdered by the mounting public pressure against him.

“It is totally obvious that the great pressure on him is what led him to mental illness and forced him to commit suicide,” Rabbi Edelstein said.

In the letter, Rabbi Edelstein urged haredi school teachers to refrain from weighing in on the Walder scandal.

“Even if there is a teacher who thinks that he has an opinion in the matter, etc., it is imperative to only tell the children the Torah perspective, and to warn how dangerous it is to publicly humiliate someone, and to tell them that bad people smeared him everywhere to the point that he was too embarrassed to show his face in public, causing him to become mentally unwell to the point that he killed himself,” he wrote.